Police will prevent 'unsanctioned' protests after Navalny verdict: Moscow official
Moscow police will prevent any illegal protests in the city, a municipal official said Tuesday after opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on supporters to take to streets over a guilty verdict that sentenced his brother to prison.
"According to the law, all unsanctioned actions will be prevented by the security forces. There is no other alternative," the capital's security department head Alexei Mayorov told Interfax news agency.
Navalny received a 3.5 year suspended sentence on Tuesday after being convicted for embezzling money from french cosmetics firm Yves Rocher, but his co-defendant and younger brother was told to serve the same sentence in a penal colony.
Navalny called for people to gather later Tuesday near the Kremlin and protest "until the regime that captures and torments innocent people is ousted".
His supporters created a Facebook event for the 7 pm (1600GMT) rally and around 18,000 had already signed up to attend by early afternoon.
A rally had been set for January 15, the original date of the verdict, but those plans were scrapped when authorities moved the ruling to Tuesday, with just a few hours warning, making it impossible to request authorisation for a protest at such short notice.
"They got scared of us but took Oleg (Navalny) as a hostage," said a statement on the Facebook page.
Ahead of the rally, Navalny supporters shared information on social networks about what to do in case of arrest and links to download FireChat, an application for communicating without the Internet which was widely used during recent protests in Hong Kong.
© 2014 AFP